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Wen Urges Greater Sandstorm Prevention Efforts
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Premier Wen Jiabao has urged government officials to strengthen efforts to control and prevent sandstorms and environmental degradation.


China faces a serious threat of desertification, and this requires afforestation efforts to be stepped up, Wen told a meeting attended by sandstorm control experts on Monday.


"It's long-term, arduous work fighting the sand, and China should improve sand control mechanisms," Wen said.


Organizations under the State Council should strengthen cooperation to improve sand control policies, and increase investment in desert control, he added.


He also encouraged residents in desert areas to participate in efforts to stop desertification.


At the meeting, Chinese scientists and experts offered suggestions on the types of trees that could be planted in deserts, environmental rehabilitation in the source regions of sandstorms, adjustment of the agricultural structure in northwest China, and establishing sandstorm monitoring and alarm systems.


They also called for greater international cooperation in the prevention of sandstorms.


Sandstorms have hit China 17 times this year, with 12 of them crossing international borders. China, Japan, South Korea and Mongolia have agreed on a plan to jointly fight sandstorms.


As a result of one of the more serious storms this spring, sand blanketed about an eighth of Chinese land from April 14 to 18, and about 330,000 tons of sand fell on Beijing alone overnight.


A violent sandstorm hit northwest China in April, killing one person in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and forcing dozens of trains to suspend operations.


Deserts in the western regions of China continue to expand, said Wu Zhongze, an official with the State Forestry Administration. Much of the farmland in Qinghai and Gansu provinces and Xinjiang is becoming sandy.


Apart from climate factors, experts blame the advance of deserts on rampant logging, overgrazing, excessive farming and the reckless use of water resources.


China suffers from one of the world's most serious desertification problems, with 2.64 million sq km -- or 27.46 percent of its territory -- having already turned into desert.


(Xinhua News Agency June 14, 2006)

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